Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Canadian Remembering American Thanksgivings Past

It's four o'clock in the morning.

I woke up about half an hour ago and couldn't go back to sleep. The TV was already on so I laid in bed and listened to a standup comic talk about how great it was to be back in Canada after living in Los Angeles for the last five years.

But they all say that, it's called playing to the crowd.

I got up and I turned on the coffee pot, and I wandered around the house and did a couple little things while the wonderful morning smell of the fresh brew permeated the upstairs.

The coffee maker usually comes on automatically at six-fifteen, which is usually fifteen minutes before the first head lifts a pillow, but this morning I couldn't wait.

When it was finished, I poured a cup, mixed it with a little sugar and cream, grabbed my laptop and came out to the garage where I have a makeshift writing area.

I couldn't sleep.

Even my faithful black lab Suzy is still sound asleep in our room by my lovely wife Darlene's side of the bed.

It's too early for Suzy.

It's Thanksgiving day … for the Americans.

Here in Canada it's just Thursday.

In a few moments I will go inside the house, wake up the girls and start the morning getting us all ready for days at school and work. And I will go into the office and take care of the normal tasks that I take care of everyday.

I might peek online to see how the Green Bay vs Detroit game is going.

When I come home tonight, we will gather at the table and have dinner and talk about our day, but it won't be Turkey, and there likely won't be any pumpkin pie. I think we have some left over lemon sponge cake my lovely wife made the nights before.

But it clearly isn't my holiday anymore.

My brother Paul and my nephew Ben drove over to Pensacola earlier this week to pick my Mom up and take her back to Baton Rouge for their holiday weekend. I understand Leigh Anne has baked a counter full of pies of all great southern varieties like Pecan and Pumpkin and Apple and even a Hershey-bar chocolate pie. They will watch football and play games and enjoy each other's company with Leigh Anne's parents across the road at their plantation like estate.

I miss them.

And I miss Thanksgiving.

As a kid growing up in Georgia, this was one of my favorite holidays. It was a four day weekend, and it meant the start of the holiday season.

It was never cold in Georgia this time of year – it just wasn't hot out anymore. It was just right.

I have my thick white woolen sweater on as I sit in the garage. The dim energy efficient light bulb just starting to warm up to a level that allows me to see.

The house would smell great all day, and through the neighborhood, the kids that didn't have to go visit somebody would gather for a game of pickup football or basketball somewhere. Football games were on a couple of the five TV stations we could pick up off the air, but we weren't sitting in the house watching a game. Why watch when you could play.

Sometime that day, Dad would gather up the tennis racquets and the huge basket of practice balls, and my brother Paul and I would go down to the tennis courts at Plantation Woods Swim and Racquet club and we would practice drills for a couple of hours. Dad would be at the net and I behind him at the baseline while Paul would be across the net at the other baseline returning the ball hard and deep to me to start the rally.

I can still smell it – the pine needles brown and brushed off the court surface – mixed with fallen leaves to give that sweet musty smell of fall.

We would spend hours down at the court like that, and it would usually end with a two set match between Paul and I while Dad sat on the court side watching, examining Paul's game while having a smoke and talking with the other members who had gathered to watch.

It was good tennis too.

Long rallies with one of trying to take the net first. If I got there first, Paul would pass me or lob me. If Paul got there first, he would volley back my pass attempts until he got one he could put away on me.

I very rarely won.

Tennis was big back then. Now it sounds odd to hear somebody talk about their love for tennis, but in the day … it was big.

Especially in Atlanta.

But we were always active. We rarely just sat around the house.

When the weather was bad, we had a pool table on one side of the two car garage, and a ping pong table on the other side. The pool table was a cheapie one my Dad got one day at a bargain price somewhere. It was never perfectly level – so you had to play the slant of the surface. And the cue sticks were from K-Mart, but still we had some good games on that old tin framed table with wood veneer pasted on it.

I have a really nice pool table now down in the family room by the fire place with a nice marble set of lights shining down on it just right. It's almost perfectly level. I play down there a lot by myself, trying to run the table break after break. My lovely wife Darlene's back won't let her bend over the table anymore to take a shot anymore – which is too bad because she was quite good and when we first moved into this house we had some great games. Now I am teaching my little girls to play, and they love it.

The ping pong table in our garage when we were kids was used more like a mini-tennis court by Paul and I. We would start the point as normal close up to the table, moving each other back another step with each shot as we started to drive the ball harder and harder – sweeping the paddle like a big tennis racket playing cross-court and slapped down the line when we have the other guy far enough to one of the corners.

Every point in every game we ever played in any of these venues always was critical and played with the utmost attention and dedication and effort and desire to win the point.

And then, at dinner time, we all got a little cleaned up, sometimes even dressing for the Turkey feast.

Thanksgiving day.

Now as I look back, I am so thankful that I have those memories. That I had my little brother Paul to battle against – my in-house biggest rival who slept in the room next to me – who tried as hard as he could to beat me – who was trying my best to beat him. The countless close matches with big moments and big points and great plays to win them.

Man I miss that.

And I miss the American Thanksgiving Day that allowed us so many of those moments.

My Canadian friends might be a little offended to me as I sit here and wax my version of poetic about the American Thanksgiving. They might even consider telling me that if I miss it so much, I should move back to the southern forty-eight states. And that's not the type of response I am trying to evoke.

It's just that when it comes to Thanksgiving Day, and the four day weekend, and the events that surround this holiday, the Americans do it better than our Canadian Sunday that comes with a day off on Monday version.

I think that's fair to say.

And I am jealous.

Because I miss American Thanksgiving very much.

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